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Gaming in an ESL Classroom

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Gaming in an ESL Classroom

Background and Application

This mini lecture is an instructional design projects that builds from the work of Amy Fleury called “Integrating Gaming into the Classroom”. In that spirit, I would like to introduce this project as an example of how to actually use a video game in a classroom. Thus, this project is intended to be used as a Lesson Plan to be part of a larger project of an ESL Curriculum. Such ESL curriculum is yet to be developed but nevertheless, this lesson plan can be part of it. In addition, it will provide a real example for teachers/instructors to see how a video game can be used in the class. It is indeed true that in other domains or topics the application of this particular video game might not be as useful. Certainly, in other learning environments this idea might not be even feasible due to number of students, number of PS2 consoles, TV, etc. In any case, this project will aim at being very specific so that (1) ESL teachers can actually implement it in their classrooms and (2) Teachers and Instructors can take this lesson as another sample of how to use video game in a classroom as an extension of the original lesson presented by Amy Fleury.

Needs Assessment


Intent Statement

Instructional Problem: There is need to provide to ESL students with dynamic classes that apply schemes known to the students through engaging and innovative learning activities. In addition, it is essential to keep students interested and motivated to return to class the next time. Retention is key in assuring that students at the end of course will be able to use/apply their English language skills to communicate in at least certain life context situations according to their level.


Gathering the information of the learners has been done through the following tools: a) Intake Forms b) Formal meeting to identify individual goals and expectations c) Level Assessment d) Informal access to students through outreach activities

Characteristics of the Intended learners

Learners Profile:

Age: the age ranges from 18 to 40

Sex: mostly males

Educational Level: some high school or less

First or Native Language: Spanish and/or Triqui

Country of Origin: many come from Mexico though some people come from Central America and fewer people come from northern South America

Prerequisite knowledge or skills: this is a beginner class and no previous English knowledge is required or necessary

Socioeconomic Background: these individuals are immigrants who work to sustain themselves and their families abroad. In many cases, their living conditions depend on the job they take and move throughout the country as seasonal workers.

Motivation and Attitudes: though people in this community usually tend to recognize the benefits of learning English, they face their own barriers and attitudes which prevent them from either enrolling in the class or continuing in it. In some cases, individuals don’t feel that they can learn. Some might feel old to learn while others might think of themselves as not fully prepared to learn. This is usually linked to low literacy levels or limited schooling back home. Peer pressure seems to play a role at times positive at times not so positive. We find that if members of the same group come together they tend to regularly attend the classes. However, if the group has such might have other activities; then no one comes.

Learners Characteristics:

The intended learners work in the New York Upstate region. Some workers arrive from indigenous communities where Spanish might be their second language. This is particularly true for Mexican immigrants who come from Oaxaca and other rural areas. In many cases their schooling is limited with low literacy levels in Spanish. They are not accustomed to traditional classroom settings. In our setting, there are many things going on and the schedule of those events might conflict and overlap with the classes. In that sense, ESL classes are not always priority since it clashes with the everyday life events.

The Instructional Context

Resources: The facilities in which the class will be held have one large room, a smaller room, and various offices of different sizes. The technology available entails a laptop computers, internet access TV, PS2 complete consoles with controls, and games. In addition, there are whiteboards, markers and erasures. Classes require at least two instructors per class.

Constraints: It might be necessary to have at least two sets of TVs, PS2s, games, etc. to assure that all members of the learning environment have access to practice and play. In larger groups, it might be difficult to provide all students with the same access. It might be necessary to execute this lesson with a different approach and perhaps more than 2 instructors per class.


Redefining Goals

a) To achieve a low student turnover rate per class. b) Provide to ESL students with dynamic classes that apply schemes known to the students through engaging and innovative learning activities. c) Influence their motivation and attitudes through engaging and innovative learning activities that demonstrate that a) learning can be fun and b) learning English is an achievable task.

Instructional Content

The Lesson Plan will be divided in traditional components of a lesson plan with various learning events. However, the feature activity will utilize a racing video game to practice and apply the vocabulary and traffic signs presented during the class. It will present driving as a scheme and the vocabulary as the slots that relates to the scheme. It will be centered on what students know and build the construction of the language from that point forward.

The Learning Environment

The learning environment will be a small group of 5 to 8 students led by two ESL instructors who co-facilitate the learning of the students. Class time is usually 90 minutes and students met at least twice a week. The entry level in terms of ESL is considered low beginners to beginners. This level of ESL in some cases correlate to their native language. The classroom is set up with a table and chairs around it; the facilitators usually seat among students establishing themselves as part of the learning group. This setting allows students to feel comfortable with the instructors and promotes trust among all the members of the class.

Learning Outcomes

The expected outcomes of this lesson can be part of larger curriculum that attempts to provide ESL instruction through nontraditional methods, materials and delivery actively engaging learners who have little to non-exposure to the traditional school settings as it is recognized here in the US. Since this design is presented as a design project, the scope of goals and objectives will be very specific.

Level: • Low beginners to beginners

Scope of the Lesson: • Car related vocabulary and basic traffic signs

Vocabulary: • Car Related Vocabulary: Steering wheel, horn, accelerate, turn right, turn left, turn around, reverse, brake (stop), hand break (emergency break), headlights, slow down, speed • Traffic Signs: Stop sign; Yield sign; Railroad Crossing Warning Sign; Regulation Signs: Speed Limit, No Turn Left, No U-Turn; Warning Signs: Right Lane Ends Merge Left, Divided Highway, Two Way Traffic, Hill Ahead, Slippery When Wet, Traffic Signal Ahead, Merging Traffic Entering From Right, School Crossing; Keep Right of Divider; and Hospital Emergency Services to the Right

Expected Outcomes

Learning goals:

At the end of this lesson ESL learners will be

(1) Introduced to and be familiar with car related vocabulary and traffic signs,

(2) Able to understand basic commands related to driving skills;

(3) Able to understand how traffic signs relate to traffic law and safety in New York State, and

(4) Able to understand the correlation between traffic violations and immigration issues, particularly for individuals who are undocumented.

Performance or Learning Objectives:

At the end of this lesson, ESL learners will:

1) Demonstrate an understanding of basic vocabulary related to driving a car by driving a car with the simulator video game Test Drive Unlimited taking a car from a rental office and driving it to a given destination without time constraints.

2) Demonstrate understanding of basic traffic signals by applying that knowledge into the video game Test Drive Unlimited driving from a rental office to a given destination without time constraints while respecting speed limit and direction of traffic.

3) State in their language of choice a list of reasons at least three reasons why violating traffic signs might put them and others at risk of traffic accidents as well as immigration complications resulting on being involved in traffic violations and/or accidents.

4) Identify and list at least 5 strategies to reduce accidents while being in a car as a driver or a passenger.


- Understanding of vocabulary - Action following signs

- Knowledge about alphabetic letters

- Basic knowledge of video games

- Basic notions of driving and traffic order

Lesson Plan

The Actual Lesson Plano of this lesson can be seen through the following file: Media:Actual_Lesson_Plan.pdf

Materials Needed For the Lesson: - Controller Sheet: Media:Controller_Sheet.pdf - Traffic Sheet: Media:Traffic_Sheet.pdf

There is file referred to DEMO which is .AVI file over 2MB that cannot be upload due to the technological restrictions of KNILT. Please contact to make it available through a different way.

About the Instructor/s:

Due to the particular setting in which this particular lesson has been designed and the nature of the discussion as it relates to immigration issues, it is important to include a bilingual instructor who in some way have previously developed a certain level of trust with the students. Although, personal immigration status should not be asked or discussed unless students disclose such information, the instructor should be fully familiar with the consequences of driving for those who are undocumented. The purpose of the discussion is not to create fear amongst participants but rather a sense of awareness to drive as safe.

Final Comments on this Project

The project has been designed to be done in one session of three hours with breaks in between, and a set up that includes discussions and sharing reflection regarding each activity and topic. An alternative to this design is to divide the entire ‘lesson’ in three sessions of one hour each. If such format is implemented, the design of the actual delivery should include a Warm Up section along with the introductions of session 2 and 3 to recall the previous session/s.

The instructor/s delivering the sessions could include other creative activities regarding traffic signs or in obtaining the order in which players can play.

More TV’s and PS2 consoles are necessary to increment the number of students participating in this project. As designing this project, future gaming ideas came up from this driving game such as: variation of the destination, including traveling to community settings such as libraries, malls, and other locations. This can follow up with other activities such as purchasing items, services, or greeting/interacting with people when driving thru fast food places or even banking services. The serious development of a game that is based on driving seems to target basic skills within a fun and a none-threating environment. The discussions and reflections of participants experience can be tailored within the framework used by Paulo Freire.

In short, this is just an example of how video games can be used to facilitate learning and explore important issues affecting participants. Nevertheless, much work is needed to develop an entire curriculum to apply this concept on other ESL topics.

Works Cited

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles - George E. Pataki, Governor. (2004). Driver's Manual. Albany: New York State.

Santamaria, J. C., Adelson-Goldstein, J., Shapiro, N., & Weiss, R. (2009). Oxford Picture Dictionary: Lesson Plans (Second ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.